LEAWOOD, Kan. – A message of hope, love and salvation — words chosen by Kelsey Smith herself — will intertwine with stories from those closest to her Tuesday at a memorial service for the 18-year-old who was abducted and slain a little more than a week ago.
The Rev. Mark Seversen plans to draw on the strength of Smith's family when he delivers his message before a crowd expected to be in the thousands at the Church of the Resurrection, where 900 turned out Monday to express their condolences.
It's a message drawn from passages Smith underlined and noted in her Bible, which her parents asked him to use.
"They want people to know that God is real, God is in the middle of things, God gives hope, and God still loves them," said Seversen, senior pastor at Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village.
Smith was abducted from a Target store in Overland Park on June 2 and her body was found three days later near a lake about 20 miles away in Missouri. Hundreds of volunteers, many of whom had never met the woman, distributed fliers and searched for her after surveillance cameras recorded her being forced into her car in the store's parking lot on that Saturday evening.
Wednesday, police arrested 26-year-old Edwin R. Hall of Olathe, acting on tips generated by the surveillance footage. He was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping.
Hillcrest Covenant leaders contacted the Church of the Resurrection — which has a 3,000-seat sanctuary — last week after more than 700 people showed up at a prayer service at Hillcrest. Leaders there realized their building probably wouldn't hold all of the people expected at Tuesday's service.
The basis for Seversen's meditation will be a passage from John: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." The music will be songs that Smith loved.
Seversen says the strength of Smith's family will be his inspiration.
"I'm able to do it when I hear them say, 'This is what we want people to know about Kelsey, and this is what we want people to know about God,"' he said.